Patricia F. Ducy

Born: July 30, 1964 | Lyon, FR
Photograph of Patricia Ducy

Patricia F. Ducy grew up in Lyon, France, an only child. When she was about twelve she had a biology teacher who inspired her to go into genetics She studied pharmacy and then general biology before she was accepted into Université Claude Bernard's PhD program in genetics. She worked in Robert Garrone's histology lab, where she conducted research on actin in fresh-water sponges. She expected to stay in France and do research, but when she heard Gerard Karsenty give a talk she knew she had found what she wanted to do. She accepted a postdoc in Karsenty's lab at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas. A paper she published on osteoblastic-specific transcription factor has been crucial to the field. She accepted a research associate position, then an assistant professorship, at the Baylor College of Medicine. Ducy and Karsenty divided their research, Ducy taking her work on osteoblasts, seeking a connection between fat and bone; they continued to collaborate, and eventually married. Then they moved to Columbia University, where they joined their labs and some of their research. 

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0649
No. of pages: 59
Minutes: 283

Interview Sessions

David J. Caruso
16 and 17 July 2008
Columbia University New York, New York

Abstract of Interview

Patricia F. Ducy grew up in Lyon, France, an only child. Her father was in insurance and her mother was a secretary. She attended a very good school a fair distance from her home, so she spent much time with her grandparents who lived near the school. She had a happy, busy childhood in a close family who all spent weekends renovating an old farmhouse. She also loved music and studying guitar. Schooldays were very long and required a lot of homework, but Ducy was self-motivated and had no trouble doing well. When she was about twelve she had a biology teacher who inspired her to go into genetics. After high school, she wanted to go into genetics but had to study pharmacy and then general biology before she was accepted into Université Claude Bernard's PhD program in genetics. She worked in Robert Garrone's histology lab, where she conducted research on actin in fresh-water sponges. She expected to stay in France and do research, but when she heard Gerard Karsenty give a talk she knew she had found what she wanted to do. She accepted a postdoc in Karsenty's lab at MD Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas. Though she had published no papers during her PhD years, she published sixteen as a postdoc; one especially—on osteoblastic-specific transcription factor—has been crucial to the field. She went back to France to look for a job, but facilities in France were limited such that she could not have the large number of mice she needed for her work, so she decided to stay in the United States, accepting a research associate position, then an assistant professorship, at the Baylor College of Medicine. Ducy and Karsenty divided their research, Ducy taking her work on osteoblasts, seeking a connection between fat and bone; they continued to collaborate, and eventually married. Then they moved to Columbia University, where they joined their labs and some of their research. Throughout the interview Ducy describes the French educational and scientific systems and compares them to the American systems. At the end of the interview she talks about getting the Pew award and about the Pew annual meetings; she analogizes science to cooking, both requiring "magic"; and she decries the need to take time away from the bench to seek funding. She speaks about continuing her work on osteoblasts, with a view to preventing and treating bone loss diseases; she also talks about how she and her husband's labs are beginning to work on diabetes. 

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1989 Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1 MS Differentiation and Genetics
1996 Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1 PhD Genetics

Professional Experience

University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center

1993 to 1998
Postdoctorate, Molecular Genetics

Baylor College of Medicine

1998 to 2000
Research Associate, Molecular and Human Genetics
2000 to 2006
Assistant Professor, Molecular and Human Genetics

Columbia University

2006 to 2009
Associate Professor, Pathology

Honors

Year(s) Award
1996 to 1998

McDuffie Fellow of the Arthritis Foundation

1997

Houston Endowment Scientific Achievement Fund Fellowship Award

1998

J. V. Satterfield Arthritis Investigator Award, Arthritis Foundation

2000

Basil O'Connor Award, March of Dimes

2001

Women's Fund for Health Education and Research Award

2001 to 2005

Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences

2003

Fuller ALbright Award from the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research

Table of Contents

Early Years
1

Childhood in Lyon, France. Parents and grandparents. French educationalsystem. Her school. Inspirational biology teacher. Playing guitar. Weekendsrenovating farm. Loved reading.

College Years
9

Matriculates into Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1. Obtains MS inDifferentiation and Genetics. Two years studying pharmacy. College system inFrance.

Graduate School Years
15

Finally enters genetics program at Claude Bernard. Works in Robert Garrone'shistology lab. Moving into molecular biology, a new discipline. Garrone'smentoring style. French lab system. Working on actin in sponges. Expectationsof staying in France.

Postgraduate Years
23

Postdoc at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, working in Gerard Karsenty's lab. Culture shock. Learning English. Compares labs and mentoring styles. American efficiency and competition. Sixteen papers, including very importantone on osteoblastic-specific transcription factor. Discusses paper writing andpublishing, grant writing.

Principal Investigator
34

Turns down job at McGill University for job at Baylor College of Medicine. Marries Karsenty. Setting up her lab. Dividing research between his lab andhers. Continues work on osteoblastic-specific transcription factor. Begins workon leptin; connection between fat and bone. Her lab management style. Discusses conferences and grants. Pew Scholars in the Biomedical Sciencesaward and annual meetings. New position at Columbia University. Expectationof diagnosing, preventing, and curing bone loss diseases. Moving into diabetesresearch. Excitement engendered by science. Science education.

Index
58

Turns down job at McGill University for job at Baylor College of Medicine. Marries Karsenty. Setting up her lab. Dividing research between his lab andhers. Continues work on osteoblastic-specific transcription factor. Begins workon leptin; connection between fat and bone. Her lab management style. Discusses conferences and grants. Pew Scholars in the Biomedical Sciencesaward and annual meetings. New position at Columbia University. Expectationof diagnosing, preventing, and curing bone loss diseases. Moving into diabetesresearch. Excitement engendered by science. Science education.

About the Interviewer

David J. Caruso

David J. Caruso earned a BA in the history of science, medicine, and technology from Johns Hopkins University in 2001 and a PhD in science and technology studies from Cornell University in 2008. Caruso is the director of the Center for Oral History at the Science History Institute, president of Oral History in the Mid-Atlantic Region, and editor for the Oral History Review. In addition to overseeing all oral history research at the Science History Institute, he also holds an annual training institute that focuses on conducting interviews with scientists and engineers, he consults on various oral history projects, like at the San Diego Technology Archives, and is adjunct faculty at the University of Pennsylvania, teaching courses on the history of military medicine and technology and on oral history.  His current research interests are the discipline formation of biomedical science in 20th-century America and the organizational structures that have contributed to such formation.